The Bohun Upas

Antiaris toxicaria, the fabled Bausor Tree of narcotic fumes

The first voyagers to Malay returned with grisly tales of a poisonous tree growing on the islands near Cathay, which was called the Bohun Upas--the tree of poisons. To the medieval traveler this tree was to be shunned, as it produced narcotic and toxic fumes which killed plants and animals for miles around. If one were to fall asleep in the shade of this tree, he would never awaken. Malaysians supposedly executed prisoners by tying them to the trunk of this great tree. By the 15th c. the tales of this tree had grown fantastic, and highly stylized drawings of the Bohun Upas were in some of the first printed books. The legend itself was probably based on the Bausor Tree (Antiaris toxicaria), which produces a poisonous latex used by natives on arrow tips.

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